mon 08/08/2022

Death Becomes What? | reviews, news & interviews

Death Becomes... What?

Death Becomes... What?

Two different attempts to make us think about death

A couple of very different publications have lately had me thinking about those 21st-century inescapables: death and celebrity. A new magazine called Eulogy hits the news stands for the first time today. It is an attempt – one that is on first sight slightly barmy, but in actual fact may be quite brave – to create a mature and engaged public discourse about death. Death, their reasoning goes, happens all the time, affects everyone, and makes us think about the deeper things in life that otherwise get obscured by banal minutiae – so why not bring it out into everyday discussion and acknowledge that it is something we all have in common?

The fact that they may have an uphill battle against Anglo-Saxon uptightness notwithstanding, the publication is tasteful and for the most part even makes for a touching rather than prurient or Pollyanna-ish read, most interestingly because its celebrity interviews often make their subjects seem, in the best possible way, very ordinary. I will watch with great interest to see whether there is a readership for something that seeks to normalise that which is normally considered sensational.

If indication was needed of how far we are from having a mature attitude to death, it was all there a couple of weeks ago on the cover of the NME, celebrating 30 years since the death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Now, Joy Division were great (although New Order, as they became post-Curtis, were just as great), and of course it is sad that a young man who wrote good songs killed himself. And yes, young music fans do idolise those who died young; I certainly recall being fixated on Jimi Hendrix as a teen. But this morbid fetishisation of an artist's death over his life seems to go beyond the call of romanticism. Was Curtis really that much more brilliant or influential than others of his generation that he warrants the histrionic wailing and gnashing of teeth that the NME gave itself over to? No, of course not: but he closely matched a very particular archetype of the tortured, pale, sharp-cheekboned rockstar that unnecessarily dominates pop culture, or at least pop media (see also Cobain, K).

Yesterday, Garry Shider, vocalist and guitarist for Parliament, Funkadelic and various other “P-Funk” projects died aged 55 of cancer. Among his many other achievements this man sung and co-wrote "One Nation Under a Groove", and for that alone, in terms of influence on culture today, can be considered every bit as important as Ian Curtis, if not significantly more so. Will his undramatic fading away beset by medical bills be accorded the importance that the anniversary of Curtis's more magazine-friendly hanging was? Do we require our stars to have "the right kind of death"? We shall see...

Watch Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" on YouTube

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